A 51-year-old Israeli shepherd became the latest Jewish fatality in the nine-month-old Palestinian intifada when his body was found near Hebron Tuesday morning. The killing of Yair Har-Sinai, a father of nine children, was just one in a series of violent incidents this week that gave the lie to the notion that anything approaching a state of lowered hostilities is currently in place.
Israeli officials insisted, however, that the violent upsurge had weakened but not destroyed the U.S.-brokered cease-fire agreement. Speaking to a Knesset committee earlier this week, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres acknowledged that ?the cease-fire is in a very deep crisis,? but said that ?we have to do everything to save it, because halting the cease-fire means more victims and more blood on both side.?
United Nations Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen said on Tuesday that he doesn?t expect the cease-fire to hold. ?If these incidents continue to happen,? he warned, ?it will mean that we will face a new crisis.?
Palestinian Information Minister Yasir Abed Rabbo was equally pessimistic, but blamed Israel for the deteriorating situation. ?Sharon alone is responsible for the crimes of the past days,? he said. ?Each time we begin to seriously implement a cease-fire…Sharon kills the opportunity by conducting a policy of assassination and terror.?
Rabbo was referring to the killing of three Islamic Jihad leaders Sunday night in the city of Jenin; the men died when their car came under missile fire from an Israeli Air Force attack helicopter.
Israeli leaders characterized the hit as an act of self-defense; the three targeted Palestinians, they said, had been responsible for bombings in the Hadera area and were planning new attacks.
?They were heavy terrorists who had been allowed to roam free,? said Israeli Transportation Minister Ephraim Sneh.
In some other incidents of Palestinian violence this week, an Israeli motorist, Avi Romano, was shot and wounded on the access road to Har Bracha; shots were fired at an Israeli vehicle transporting workers on the Trans-Israel Highway south of Tulkarm; Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian spotted planting a bomb between Itamar and Eilon Moreh; two bombs exploded in the Tel Aviv suburb of Yehud, injuring six people; Palestinians hurled four grenades at Israeli troops stationed along the Egyptian border near Rafah; and Palestinians fired an anti-tank grenade and shot at an IDF post near Gadid in Gush Katif.